The NEA zeroes out its Jazz Masters program, the Grammys cuts categories so pop best-sellers regain prominence vis a vis less obviously commercial stars, but the Jazz Journalists Association’s 15th annual Jazz Awards — to be held June 11, 2011 with an afternoon gala with all star music at City Winery, NYC, satellite parties hosted by prominent fans and grass roots organizations around the U.S. and streaming live video on the web at www.JJAJazzAwards.org — hails loud and clear the achievements of the jazz music and media makers. (See that website for a list of all the nominees).
Usually the journalists who cover an art form aren’t responsible for being the art form’s leading public advocates, but we live in challenging times. At this point it’s the independent and freelance critics who can assert more noisily that jazz is an American musical art form uniquely fit for, reflective of and adaptable to the here and now, and that we all should stop for a moment to give its beloved players a sustained round of applause.
- Omrao Brown, curating co-owner of Bohemian Caverns, Washington, D.C.
- Peggy Cooper Cafritz, educational and cultural warrior who co-founded Washington’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts
- John Gilbreath, director of Earshot Jazz (Seattle) and busy radio show host
- Lori Mechem and Roger Spencer, pianist and bassist, respectively but also educators who have founded and for ten years nurtured the Nashville Jazz Workshop
- Don Z. Miller, festival impresario and supporter of live jazz in Arizona
- Dr. Maitreya Padukone, dentist for musicians sent by the Jazz Foundation of America, and an accomplished tabla player
- Mike Reed, Chicago drummer and presenter across genres, vice-chair of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)
- Ed Reed, Bay Area singer and substance abuse counselor
- Elynor Walcott and her sons Paul, Frank and Lloyd Poindexter, sustainers of Wally’s Café Jazz Club in Boston
These folks and all the nominees (more than 200) in 39 categories of Awards for excellence as well as, of course, the winners of the Awards, are why Jazz Awards are worth giving. In Berkeley, Boston, Nashville, Portland, Seattle, Telluride, Tallahassee and Washington D.C. local people think it’s fun enough to have satellite parties the way we used to gather to watch the Academy Awards, the way people go to sports bars for big games — to watch, schmooze, debate the event and maybe tweet about it.